Volunteer, Beauty, Traveler Connects to Her World through PAVE and More
Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Alison Czelusniak ’02 has taken these words to heart, and in the true spirit of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UMass Amherst, she is connecting to her world. She volunteers with many organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Berkshire Hills Music Academy, and The Literacy Project. She has also volunteered for a women's shelter, Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Center for Eating Disorders and Body Acceptance, Council on Aging, veterans’ hospitals, soup kitchens, and after-school tutoring programs.
“Volunteering at an early age fosters the development of empathy, personal values, awareness, self-esteem, and social responsibility,” she says. “Hopefully, if we instill these values in our youth early on, that spirit of service will stay with them for a lifetime.” Czelusniak isn’t just paying lip service to these notions. Back in 1999, when she realized that many of her peers felt too overwhelmed with their day-to-day activities to respond to the growing needs of their communities, she founded PAVE (Promoting America’s Volunteer Efforts), a network for volunteers across America that spreads the message “everyone can help.”
“Many people are willing to volunteer in their communities,” says Czelusniak, “but they often are unaware of where to start, or how they can use their talents and skills to help out.” PAVE helps volunteers find out about organizations that need help in their area and can help them find organizations in need of their special talents and availability. In addition, PAVE works to incorporate community service into the school curriculum across the United States.
Czelusniak expanded her vision when she met with Governor Romney to discuss Senate Bill #315 (Massachusetts Service Learning Initiative), which encourages school boards to adopt service learning as a graduation requirement. “Through service learning,” Czelusniak emphasizes, “students apply what they're learning in the classroom to larger social issues by serving their communities. They use textbooks to gain knowledge, but they assist others and discover themselves as they share their hearts and hands.” See www.paveamerica.org for more information.
Meanwhile, Czelusniak, a cum laude graduate who majored in Communication/Broadcast Journalism and Spanish, is working toward her master’s degree in International Relations at New York University. While at UMass, she won the Roetter Public Speaking Award, was a member of the Chi Omega Sorority, sang with the Vocal Suspects a cappella group, and served as news anchor for UMass Today.
In 2003 Czelusniak, a Holyoke native who now resides in Manhattan, was named Miss Western Massachusetts; in 2004 she won the Miss Fairfield County (Connecticut) title and subsequently competed in the Miss Connecticut pageant where she was a Top 10 finalist and recipient of the Miss America Community Service Scholarship. In December 2005 as one of four women selected out of 2,000 aspirants, she appeared in German Glamour magazine’s fashion spread entitled "From Catwalk to Reality," highlighting couture fashion "in the real world."
Czelusniak is an avid traveler. She has visited 15 countries and studied abroad in Madrid, Spain during her junior year. In 2002 she was a guest of honor at The International Conference on Environmental Law and Sustainable Development in São Luís, Brazil where she was honored for her work as a volunteer and promoted PAVE on an international level. Having worked for CNN and Inside Edition, she is currently a real estate broker for Prudential Douglas Elliman in New York City.
December 1, 2005